Today the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, a government quango, proposes radical changes to maternity leave that would give fathers up to four months paternity leave. At the same time, mothers' leave would reduce from nine months to six months. The proposals would cost no more than just over half a percent of GDP, the ninnies preen.
Fine. The pay gap is currently rather stubbornly stuck at about 18%; a very small part of this is due to taste discrimination against women. The proximate reason for the difference is the amount of time women spend out of the workplace having and caring for babies. One of the consequences of introducing equality of parental leave, which will also act to catalyse fathers taking career breaks to look after the kids rather than (predominantly) mothers, will be that the pay gap will shrink.
One of the other consequences will be that employers will tend to employ men and women beyond their childbearing years, or those who can be classed as confirmed bachelors or spinsters. Half a percent of GDP may be peanuts in this age of fiscal profligacy, but the costs of parental leave to a small enterprise can often be crippling. The public sector will take the proposals up willingly, but with the longer term consequence that single men will earn more and occupy higher positions than married men.
In other words, the changes are likely to improve overall the employment conditions of every group other than young would-be parents.